DOES CERTIFICATION OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS MATTER? THE EFFECTS OF CERTIFICATION STATUS ON INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES AND ON THE MATHEMATICS AND READING ACHIEVEMENT OF FIRST GRADE PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS
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This study examines teachers' certification status--emergency, standard, or advanced-- as a predictor of teachers' instructional practices and of mathematics and reading of first grade public school students. The study is a secondary data analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey (ECLS-K) and uses ordinary least squared regression as the primary statistical method. The chief finding is that certification, on its face, does not predict either the mathematics or reading achievement of first grade students when students' race, socioeconomic status, prior achievement, teachers' experience, and advanced degrees are controlled. The strongest predictors of first grade reading and mathematics achievement are students' prior achievement, SES, and race. Certification status did have noteworthy indirect effects (i.e. OLS interaction terms) on both mathematics and reading achievement. In reading and mathematics, when emergency certification status was considered with end-of-kindergarten achievement, the results indicated that the students of teachers with emergency certification made fewer gains in reading achievement than the students of teachers with standard certification. Similarly, in mathematics, when advanced certification status was considered with prior mathematics achievement, the results indicated that the achievement of students of teachers with advanced certification remained relatively unchanged. Likewise, certification status did not directly predict the types of instructional practices that first grade teachers utilize in the classroom. Similarly, certification status had significant indirect effects on the examined instructional practice variables in mathematics. Emergency certified teachers who used number sense instruction decreased mathematics achievement scores. The study concludes that the indirect effects of certification status on student achievement should signal educators that use emergency certified teachers may create inequities that result in diminished achievement for the most high need students. Therefore, the recommendations proposed encourage educators and policymakers to retool current certification practices and ensure that first grade students are taught by teachers with at least standard certification.